Jonas Blixt's tee shot on the 18th landed in the pocket of fan Muhammad Khokhar. (Cannon/Getty Images)
By Fred Albers, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent
PITTSFORD, N.Y. -- Jim Furyk spent a frustrating Friday trying to find the rhythm of his golf swing and it still wasn’t with him as he teed off Saturday in the third round of the PGA Championship. A utility wood off the first tee found the rough and Furyk followed that up with a double cross at the third but things changed at the fourth.
Furyk always follows up a bad swing with immediate practice swings and the rhythm returned on the fourth hole. From that point of the round forward, Furyk was a dangerous golfer, culminating on the 53rd hole.
The 17th hole was one mean par 4 and it took Furyk to tame it. He sank a 17-foot birdie putt on the toughest hole at Oak Hill to take a one-stroke lead into the final round.
The 485-yard hole gave up just seven birdies the entire day while playing to a stroke average of 4.427. Of the 75 golfers to play the hole, 34 made par, 34 made bogey or worse and Furyk was one of the seven with a birdie.
Conditions: Golf courses are laid out to be played with the prevailing wind. At Oak Hill that means out of the west. So, when the wind gusted out of the northwest in the third round, it was a puzzle golfers struggled to solve. The wind swirled through the tree tops, making it very difficult pull a club. Golfers had to understand, bogeys were going to be made and that was just part of the examination.
Blixt's wayward tee shot: Jonas Blixt knew he hit a bad drive off the 18th tee but he had no idea just how bad the shot really was. The ball flew directly into the back pocket of a spectator. Muhammad Khokhar had the ball lodge right next to his wallet in his back right pocket. When Blixt arrived, there was discussion as to who should remove the ball. Blixt was naturally hesitant to reach into Khokhar’s pocket and the former Florida State golfer giggled with the gallery until a rules official instructed Khokhar to take the ball out of his own pocket. Blixt identified it as his drive and was granted a free drop. Blixt proceeded to hit a 205-yard 5-iron to within 3 feet of the cup and birdie the 18th to finish 6 under.
Hole location: The tees at the 15th hole were moved up so the par 3 measured a manageable 179 yards but the hole location was extremely difficult. The cup was cut 31 paces onto the green and just seven off the right side. As the leaders came through, it was tough to even see the flagstick that was encased in late afternoon shadows. The hole played to a stoke average of 3.280 and was the fourth-most difficult hole on the course. It yielded just seven birdies to the 75 golfers.
Short game: Rory McIlroy went from being in danger of missing the cut on Friday afternoon to the fringes of contention by Saturday night. McIlroy birdied four of his last seven holes in the second round to finish 36 holes at even par and then shot 67 in the third round thanks to a pair of unlikely birdies at both the 17th and 18th holes. McIlroy’s short game has been sharp. He has a total of 83 putts in 54 holes with just 25 coming in the third round.
Momentum swing: Nobody had a greater disparity in score than Justin Rose. He finished off his second round with an inward 29. Rose played the same nine-hole stretch in the third round and shot 42. His misery included a pair of doubles and four bogeys without a birdie. That’s a 13-shot swing.
Fred Albers is a course reporter for SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio. For more information on SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio, click here